We have been having some steady summer weather lately, so what better a time then this to book an appointment to my favourite spa and it’s one of a kind patio? Typically the 24 hour cancelation fee has me fearing bad weather and the inability to rebook on the day. So when the forecast called for sunny skies and no clouds I took advantage. Having been before, I knew to ask when the sun would be out and timing my appointment for after I caught some rays. They allow you unlimited use of their facilities for any spa service booked. In the past, I have walked into a massage room only to walk out disappointed; with the sun well hidden past neighbouring buildings. So in my case 11-3pm was the magical time. My appointment was at 2:45pm, when we were no longer able to chase after the retreating sun. By chase I mean, moving from seat to seat until the entire patio was void of the sun’s rays.
Despite it being downtown, parking isn’t really an issue, if you have the money to spare. You drive right up to the front and leave your key with the valet. You get some of the cost reimbursed by the spa. After over 4 hours parked the total came to $15. But now at the lobby, you claim a ticket in exchange for your key. You leave your vehicle for the attendant to worry about. If your vehicle is of the expensive and sports car variety it gets parked right out front. For the rest of us, underground it goes. I was particularly embarrassed to be pulling up in my dirty vehicle, that I failed to clean for over a month.
You journey through the hotel foyer: past the check in desks, the florist in the corner, and their lobby lounge with live music, right to the elevators at the back. 5th floor, your destination is listed. I always thought it was a shame that they didn’t have this spa and its patio higher. Doing so would be a better view and less noise from the world below. A concern that did not weigh heavily enough to have me not returning.
On level five, you check in at the concierge, she confirms your appointment and that you have been before. If not you get the guided tour. Lockers are available and secured with a combination of your choosing. Leaving your stuff behind, you change into your swim suit, slip on a pair of their rubber sole flip flops, and clothe yourself in their heavy terry cloth robe. Both are for complimentary use, available in each locker. It’s locker room rules, so you are able to change freely out in the open, or if you prefer modesty, you can use one of their spacious washroom stalls.
One of the many reasons why I like this particular spa so much is that all the amenities are included with your stay. You do pay a steep fee for the massage service, but it is well worth it if you take advantage of all the little adds on they offer. Use of their roof top patio, the perfect oasis to tan in, above a bustling city. Shared use of their indoor lounges, one specifically for men and one for women, or join a friend or partner at the co-ed share space in the middle.
They also have dried nuts and fruits and several water station around for you to stay hydrated with and to snack on. Spa treatments usually require you to drink lots so their flavoured fruit water and refreshing teas help with this. Pineapple cubes or watermelon chunks in a vat of ice water, berry berry iced tea, and an apple sencha iced tea. Over eating and having a massage can cause unwanted discomfort. The best solution, nibble on handful of their mixed nuts, or grab a rectangle of their power bar mix. It is all help yourself, with each item under its own glass dome. You take as much as you like with a pair of tongs and a small dish.
If you come on a good day the whole patio is your play ground. It is almost peaceful if not for the roar of engines and the rumbling of trucks below, even the occasional loud conversation fills your ears. Though if you focus on yourself and concentrate on the smoothing spa melody broadcasted, most of this does fade away. The ground was made from large stone with wooden planks framing the space. Various wicker seats and their accompanying side tables were free at a first come first bases. Best to claim what you want with a towel or robe. A few loungers made the perfect place to recline in for you and a friend. A large curved surface to maximize comfort. They were intermingled with a few chairs surrounding an outdoor fire pit. Clearly it’s flames were for show on a day like today.
By the balcony’s edge was a row of wicker nests propped up with silver and white throw pillows, a woolen throw and its own heat lamp. Once again, on a day like today the latter two were unnecessary, though perfect when the patio looses its sun at around 2:30pm. This is when the surrounding buildings obstruct its rays. Tanning in the city. As a courtesy you lay a towel out, this catches your sweat and makes the furniture sanitary for the next person to use it. The sad part is most people don’t clean up after themselves so you are left wondering if a space is free when towels are left holding it. The only down side: beware of birds. I seem to have the luck of being graced by fresh splotches of bird droppings during each visit. Luckily each time, it was on the furniture and not my face.
Though if you have missed the sun altogether, you can still enjoy the roof top space by ordering a meal and a bottle of wine or taking a dip in either of their small pools. The menu is from Oru, their lobby’s kitchen. It includes a curated list of Pacific Northwest style plates and flavours from the Pacific Rim. Sushi, salads, meat and cheese platters. Though plan ahead because any of it requires at least a 45 minute wait.
Both pools felt heated thanks to the sun, but only one was meant to be an actual “hot” tub. So as a result both were left unoccupied. No one wants to dip into water only to be made warmer on an already sweaty day. We however took advantage of the exclusive pool and enjoyed a soak while commenting on the view. Some like it hot. And in the hot tub we even had the bubbles running thanks to a friendly staff member offering us the option. Power jets, enough said.
I have always found any massage under 30 minutes too short, and 60 minutes is just when you start to relax. Therefore I decided to indulge in a 90 minute therapeutic massage today. Over the course of two years I have been struck four times in four separate car accidents. As a result I suffer from day to day back, and lingering shoulder to neck pain. So today, I was hoping this costly session would bear fruit. And that I would get some more peace than my weekly physiotherapy sessions can provide. I was looking for instant relief and hoping a registered massage therapist would help.
Most people prefer to have a masseur the same sex as themselves. This reminds me of childhood days on the playground, where the opposite gender had cooties and touching them or letting them touch you would transfer the imaginary disease on to you. No matter the gender they are professionals, they are providing you a service, this is their livelihood. They will not do anything to jeopardize this and if you think that they care to take a peak at what’s under your towel, you are wrong. You have nothing they haven’t seen. This is business, you are a means to an end. Blunt, but true. So for all those who are scared by a different gendered masseur or masseuse, don’t be. Now a trip to a gynaecologist or a Brazilian wax may be a different story.
As you can see, I have no preference. If anything, the sexist thought I have is that, men are stronger and therefore better at deep tissue massages? Though ironically, my male masseur was self proclaimed as being heavy handed. Too strong that I had to ask for him to tone the pressure down, something he was easily able to do.
The session begins with a personal pick up by your masseur. They lead you to a room in the back, on the way offering you water or the time the use the facilities. Once in the designated rooms you both go over logistics. You are walked through a waiver, a list of points to cover, and questions on what he or she needs to be wary of. Allergies? Pregnancies? Any medical conditions? The usual. There is some customization available in your massage session. You determine the level of pressure you desire and places you want them to concentrate on. Like ordering off an all you can eat menu knowing you only get 90 minutes to enjoy it all.
Once you have signed off consent, you are given the time and the option to fully disrobe. The heated robe rack dries your swimsuit, if you have taken a dip in either pools. Naked you climb in to the massage table, an inclined, single bed outfitted with fresh sheets and fluffy linens. The table is heated and the whole experience feels like you are resting on a cloud. Face down the relaxation begins with aroma therapy and the calming fragrance of lavender wafting under yours nose.
Even with 90 minutes it all felt so short. As soon as it began, sadly I was already counting down to when it would be over. It takes you about 45 minutes to truly relax and if you are doing the therapeutic massage like me, you never truly settle. Instead the intensity of the massage and the need to get in deep has you all tense. There is a need to have your limbs jostled, just to remind you to let go. My masseur resorted to asking me to control my breath, to breath in deeply; as a way to get my mind off my pain points and the ticklish spots. My massage was definitely geared towards me. He had me push back and give resistance, to stretch out joints and to loosen ligaments, it was a very evolved 90 minutes. The focus was on tender points where my muscles were most knotted. He pushed on sore points with just enough pressure. He instructed that if I was to rank my pain, there should be nothing that is over a “7”. And if is the case I have to get him to stop. Top to bottom on my front, then bottom to top on my back. When their was time to spare my more severe pain points were revisited. It ended with me sitting up right. I definitely left feeling achy, but coupled with the note of their being less weight on my shoulders.
After I was given the space to redressed, I was ushered back to the lounge area. Enroute I was given a shot glass of their green smoothie. A cold pressed juice that includes apples, spinach, and pineapple. Before we parted ways he took the final time we had to debrief me on our session. Giving me feedback on how to help my existing sore points. How I should keep my shoulders to improve the strength in my back. And even helpful breathing tips to make the healing process easier. All this and his ability to cite body parts scientifically, gave me much confidence in his abilities and knowledge.
After your treatment you can head back to the patio and/or enjoy any of the other amenities. Continue unwinding back in the hot tub or maybe in the steam room instead?The additional heat before or after a treatment is proven to help the relaxation process. But if you are looking for something more dry, they also offer a unisex sauna to sweat out those same toxins in.
And when it comes time to clean up, you can do so in either of the two individual shower stalls. They are individual rooms that lock for individual use. Each comes with a bench, towels, a fresh robe, and two different types of shower heads. Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash are of the pump bottle variety, each bolted to the tiled walls. Or if you are looking for something more indulgent, try their experience showers. Multiple shower heads in multiple directions. Each with its own setting and the ability to adjust its intensity. If you hit the right combination it’s like a watery massage washing you with waves. This showering experience even comes with view, if you dare to take a peak of the streets below.
I definitely took advantage of all their clean towels. Nothing like a clean fluffy hotel towel after a refreshing shower.
Once dry, they have everything you need to take your time, and to prep yourself for the outside world. Cotton balls, cotton swabs, deodorant, razors with shaving cream, tampons, sewing kits, mouth wash, and body cream. All travel size, set up by the shared sink. There are even individual vanities with back lit mirrors; providing combs, hair spray, gel, and the use of a hair dryer and a straightening iron. This set up takes into consideration those who are here may be on vacation.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Hands down my favourite spa, the patio really sets it apart. If I haven’t convinced you of how good it is after this long post, I don’t know what will.
Fairmont Pacific Rim
1038 Canada Place, Vancouver BC, V6C 0B9